Winning Time Season 2, Episode 3 vs. True Story Compared

Episode 3 of the second season of HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty explores the rise of Larry Bird, the most formidable opponent of Magic Johnson in the NBA. 

Magic watches Bird win the NBA Championship in 1981 with Celtics, just a year after he and the Showtime Lakers did the same in 1980. At the same time, the Lakers front office faces a dilemma in preparing for the next season to have a realistic shot at another NBA Championship.

The behind-the-scene struggles of the Lakers in episode 2 seem to have ended with the signing of Mitch Kupchak, which is shown in episode 3, titled ‘The Second Coming.’

The title is a reference to Larry Bird, who is referred to as ‘the basketball Jesus’ by his fans. Bird puts on a show in episode 3 through a series of flashbacks showing how he finally ends up at the Indiana State Basketball court after a barrage of hardships. 

Although Winning Time is mainly about the Lakers, episode 3 also touches on their fiercest competitors!

Winning Time Season 2 | Official Trailer | Max

This story coincides with the real life of Larry Bird, who quit college in 1974 and started working as a trash collector in his hometown at French Lick before ultimately attending Indiana State University. 

According to his peers, Bird loved being a garbage man and living a simple life with his friends. He would also point out areas of improvement in his locality and was very content at that time.

1. Magic Johnson’s $25 Million Contract Extension

Winning Time Season 2, Episode 3 Recap vs. True Story Compared
Quincy Isaiah in Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (2022) | Source: IMDb

Episode 3 shows Magic Johnson signing a record 25-year contract extension with Jerry Buss of the Los Angeles Lakers, amounting to $25 million. 

Real-life Johnson signed the same deal in 1981, making it the longest NBA deal ever. However, the salary figure is low by today’s standards and was meant to demonstrate Magic Johnson’s unwavering loyalty to the Lakers. 

2. Larry Bird’s Father Committed Suicide in 1975

When Larry Bird was only nineteen, he lost his father to suicide. 

Joe Bird, who was 48 years old, had served in the Korean War, and the trauma had a lasting impact on his persona. 

These untold aches pushed him towards alcoholism, and he struggled to find jobs for a living. Moreover, he had also separated from his wife, Georgia, who raised Larry and his five siblings. 

Larry loved his father and enjoyed fishing with him. His death was a devastating blow for the young basketball star that would scar him forever.

3. HBO Took a Big Creative Liberty with Jim Chones

Episode 3 took a huge artistic liberty with how former Lakers forward Jim Chones reacted to his trade. 

The Washington Post reported that Chones and his wife Elores were actually happy about moving to Washington D.C. because it meant being closer to their roots in Cleveland, Ohio. 

However, the HBO show portrays Chones as having a furious meltdown over being swapped for Mitch Kupchick, saying he had just bought a house in LA and was wondering how to break the news to his wife. 

The truth was, Chones was a bit sad but not shocked by the trade and even admitted that he liked the slower pace of life in the Midwest better than LA.

4. Red Auerbach Made Larry Bird The Highest Paid NBA Rookie

To persuade Larry Bird to join the Boston Celtics, Celtics President Red Auerbach made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: the most generous contract ever for an NBA rookie at that time. 

Bird agreed to a deal that paid him an average of $650,000 per year for five years, equivalent to about $2.74 million in today’s money after adjusting for inflation. 

However, Sports Illustrated reported that Auerbach downplayed Bird’s importance to the team as a “cornerman” during the talks. 

5. Magic Johnson Was Instrumental in Lakers Signing Mitch Kupchak

Winning Time Season 2, Episode 3 Recap vs. True Story Compared
Magic Johnson | Source: IMDb

Winning Time season 2, episode 3 shows Coach Paul Westhead as the main reason the Lakers want to trade for Mitch Kupchak. 

However, they don’t tell you that Magic Johnson was also keen on having Kupchak as his teammate, a crucial fact omitted from the show. Kupchak joined the Los Angeles Lakers and played with Magic for four seasons, forming a solid bond on the court. 

But off the court, they became rivals in the front office, as Kupchak took over the General Manager role for the Lakers for many years. In 2017, Magic returned to the Lakers and replaced Kupchak as the new General Manager, ending his long tenure.

6. Jeanie Buss Managed Martina Navratilova On The LA Strings

Season 2 follows the journey of Jeanie Buss as she steps up to become the LA Strings General Manager. She inherits the role from her father, who was the boss of the Lakers. 

Jeanie led a team of talented tennis pros to win the league title in 1981. Among them was Martina Navratilova, a force of nature on the court. Navratilova later played two more TeamTennis champions in her career, and the LA Strings claimed anJoother trophy in 1990. 

Winning Time season 2 shows how Jeanie Buss rose to power before taking over the Los Angeles Lakers after her father died in 2013.

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7. About Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is an American sports drama television series created by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht for HBO, based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman.

The first season, comprising 10 episodes, chronicles the 1980s Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team (beginning in late 1979), featuring notable NBA stars Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

It features an ensemble cast led by John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, Jason Segel, Gaby Hoffmann, Rob Morgan, and Adrien Brody. The series premiered on March 6, 2022, with the pilot episode directed by Adam McKay. In April 2022, the series was renewed for a second season, which premiered on August 6, 2023.


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